2022 StackSource Summit Playback: An Update to Our Core Values and Mission

Tim Milazzo
July 29, 2022

Back in June, the StackSource team assembled in Atlanta for three days of fun and talking strategy, culture, and values. We visited our first financed property, ate tacos, and played TopGolf. We also had the opportunity to share stories and tactics that have allowed us to succeed at StackSource and grow our company.  StackSource Co-founder & CEO Tim Milazzo highlighted updates to the company’s core values and expectations of our culture.. He also introduced our first official company mission statement.

Press play below to hear more about StackSource’s Mission and updated Core Values.

StackSource’s Mission Statement: "To provide transparent, efficient access to the capital markets for commercial real estate investors to source their ideal capital stack”.

Sign up for our email list to be notified about more videos from our 2022 summit, including Zach Wagner’s Personal Journey to StackSource, and Tim’s Balance Wheel tactic of staying on track. 

Not able to listen? Read the full transcript from Tim’s talk here:

All right, so we talked about strategy amongst what's happening in the industry and Prop Tech, and what we are going to do with our product. Nicole showed us what some of that product is going to look like. We talked strategy with Colleen on what we're going to do for marketing, and how we're going to try to draw in more people and get more leads. But we're not going to talk about strategy for this last session, because strategy is not the only thing that makes for a great company. As a matter of fact, there are those that would think that strategy is not even close to the most important thing that makes a great company. Peter Drucker famously said, "culture eats strategy for breakfast". I'm not going to ask for a show of hands for who believes it, but whether you think it's the most important thing or not, and I happen to, the culture of the company is going to be one of the most important driving forces, and that's all of us. It's all the humans, not the tech features that we have, and not even necessarily our skills, but what we decide we're driving towards, how we're going to do it, and how we're going to treat each other, is going to be one of the most important, if not the most important, determining factor as to whether we're going to be successful doing any of these strategies.

We took a poll leading up to a survey, leading up to the event. If you remember, we had to run two surveys because Culture Amp, which is the survey platform we use, if you have it in an “anonymous setting”, you cannot break through that. We can't tell who answers what. So when we run an engagement survey in a couple of weeks, we had to run the second survey because we couldn't tell who was coming to the event. But part of the survey was, hey, “what do you think of our core values?”. We have five core values on the website. I wrote a blog post for each of them. I probably wrote them around the time we had those seven people at our last outing. “What do you think of those values? Do you agree with them? Do you agree with them strongly? Do you disagree with them?”. Here are the results of the survey: 100% of respondents said they agree that integrity is an important value for this business. 100% of respondents said that transparency is an important core value for our business. The other is we didn't have people disagreeing. So the green, if you can see it well, is people that agree, hey, this is a good core value for our business. The gray is neutral. Not sure. Maybe I'm convinced, maybe it's not as important as others that said I agree. We got good scores, not 100% on three other core values that we had named previously: Speed, (speed of decision making, speed of execution, and ownership). We got also 89% of people agreeing. So not much disagreement. Not disagreement on these things, but ownership and curiosity. Curiosity actually scored the lowest at 82%. Again, most of us agree that curiosity is a good thing. So what are we going to do with this? And we asked for comments as well. We said, is there another core value that you'd expect to see with this business that would be a good fit with this business? Do you have any questions about our current core values? And we got some comments and honestly, they were pretty clustered. Three of you said that collaboration should be a core value. Some people had questions about what ownership means. What does it mean to have ownership? We're not owners of buildings. What does ownership mean? Three of you, and these are free text comments, this was not multiple choice. Three of you said collaboration. Three of you said innovation.

What we're going to do is we're going to tweak, not change outright what we're trying to be in a culture, but we're going to tweak, we're going to keep transparency and integrity exactly the same. Curiosity and innovation are along that same wave. But several of you suggested that innovation, in a sense, goes a little bit beyond curiosity. Curiosity may cause you to ask questions. Innovation requires you to make that decision, and it requires you to make a decision beyond the comfort zone of what other people are doing so far, maybe beyond what you've done before. You can stop in curiosity and just read about something and say, that's nice. Innovation means you need to have that curiosity. You need to say, what are we doing right now? How can we do something different? And actually, how can we make something better? So we're going to tweak curiosity to innovation. We're also going to pare down to only four core values. Speed and ownership are going to be sunset and replaced by this idea of owning the outcome. Now speed kind of going away doesn't mean that we don't want to be fast in our results to clients. We do. And that can be of value to certain types of clients more than others. And it doesn't mean that we don’t want to be swift and decisive. But there's maybe a downside to Speed that some people had pointed out, which is you don't want to make a hasty decision, or “my client has this huge complex deal”. It's not about getting out to market so quickly. It's actually about slowing down and doing it right on some of these deals. Ownership is not going away, but it is evolving into owning the outcome. So what does that mean? First of all, what does ownership mean to me, well, I guess it's one of the definitions, the definition that I like from the dictionary, it's an attitude of accepting responsibility for something and taking control of how it develops. So similar would be responsibility. So this is not ownership saying that we're going to go own buildings. It's not ownership. It's not even really ownership of "I'm going to control how everything happens". The idea of owning the outcome from Ray Dalio, “I just want to be right. I don't care if the answer comes from me.” It's not about, "I'm going to make every single decision along the way and I'm going to be so controlling of the process" and it leaves room for, several of you suggested, hey, I actually really appreciate that StackSource is a place where I can collaborate, where I'm not competing against someone in a cubicle next to me. There are no walls up between different departments, there are no walls up between different teams. We share the same capital provider database. As a matter of fact, five of you have been paid bonuses in the last two months for adding your capital providers to the database and then somebody else used the capital provider that you added to the database and you got bonuses, five of you got that in the last two months. There should be a collaborative nature that helps us to find the right outcome for our clients, for our teammates, and ultimately for the company. And we can all do that together. A couple of suggestions for reading or learning a little bit about this. Own the outcome is about thinking about, listen, “I have responsibility for the right thing and the right results coming out of whatever I'm working on”. If Jesse is working on a new feature on our platform, that feature working would be owning the outcome. He can't say, well, “I did a pretty good job coding, I know it's broken, I know it's a bug, but I did my job, I wrote the code”. No, it needs to work. That would be owning the outcome. A capital advisor, you can't say, “well, I made some calls, did the deal close or not”? Listen, this is a brutal industry in that regard. If you're on commission, and if your deal is not closing, you're feeling pretty quickly that you're supposed to own the outcome here because you're not going to get paid a commission. And nobody listened to your client, didn't make money, and therefore you don't make money. We're completely aligned, but this is not going to be a culture of, “well, I made a call, somebody made a decision, I lost the deal, I should be paid for that, actually”. It's going to be about the outcomes. Now, it's not about controlling every little piece along the way, because if there's someone else in the seat next to you, if there's someone else across the company, heck, if there's someone outside the company you can call for help on a deal or help on a project, Jesse may not need to write all that code himself. He can find a developer that's doing something similar at another company. We don't care how we get to that outcome as much as getting to the right outcome. So there's that room for collaboration, there's that room for working together.

A couple of recommendations, I've been reading this book called "Extreme Ownership". It was written by two former Navy Seal officers that were deployed in the Middle East to some of the hottest fighting in the Middle East years ago. And they wrote this book called "Extreme Ownership" for lessons from the field and lessons from these intense firefights and how they preserve lives and how they protect people and they go through and they actually, after leaving the Navy Seals, they became business coaches, and they are now advising large corporations and CEOs on howto fix problems with their business. And they take some lessons from the military and they say, how do you take extreme ownership? Ownership of the situation. And it's been an interesting read. It's been a cool read. I'm sure it's not the only book or maybe it's not even the best book on this topic, but it's one that's been helpful to me. On the other end of the spectrum, I'll not be going at it alone. If there's a way you can seek a better outcome by collaborating and teaming up, a couple of books in that regard one that I've read by Adam Grant called "Give and Take." It's about investing in the relationships with the people around you in the industry and at work and actually being a giver and not a taker at work and why that's a good decision in the long term, is to invest in the relationships around you, help other people because then ultimately the help will come back to you. You can actually make it further, you can make it higher in the short term, being a taker and just over negotiating everything and pulling everything towards you. But the long-term results and fruitful relationships in the long term are actually about being a giver. So Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, highly recommends his work. Another that I have not read yet, but is popular in the real estate investing industry among some people that are getting into multifamily investment and I've heard a lot about is "The Go-Giver”. This is again about giving and not being stingy with your time and your attention and investing in the relationships around you, not keeping everything so close and with such an iron fist. "Go-Giver" is one that I've seen recommended a bunch of times and it's on my reading list personally. If anybody here does read it or has read it and wants to share some more with us, on maybe a Monday meeting, I would love to hear more about it.  Or maybe I'll beat you guys and I'll be the next one to read and I'll share about it. But that's one that's been recommended. So this idea of owning the outcome, listen, you're responsible for whatever it is on your plate at work. You're responsible for it working. You're responsible for winning. We're responsible to each other to make this company successful. But that doesn't mean you have to go at it alone and it doesn't mean control of every detail if help could be had from the people around you. And that's the idea of owning the outcome. So these are going to be our four core values moving forward, are going to be, and I'll flip back to it, we're going to keep transparency. And transparency means not just do we know what you're doing, but do we know how you're doing it. Listen, guys, even my emails sync to Pipedrive CRM. So I'm not just asking for something that I'm not going to do myself. My contacts are there, my emails are there. Integrity. This is doing what you said. This is sticking to the rules and not going outside the lines to get some short-term unfair advantage. It's innovation. We're not going to do things just because it's the way things are done. We're going to seek the best way and it's owning the outcome. It's realizing I'm responsible and I can find a way and I can find the people that are going to help me succeed in what I'm trying to do. And we think that's going to be the culture that's going to help us. Our strategies may change. Today, we're talking about instant quotes. We're talking about a new interface. We're talking about commercial mortgage API. We'll have some new strategy in three years that we haven't thought of yet. We're going to have new people thinking of new strategies. Our strategies will change. We want the way we operate to be something we're all comfortable with and ultimately succeed or fail. We're comfortable with the way we went about it and we knew that we stayed true to the way we were supposed to be going. One more thing here. Those will be the new core values. They'll be posted to the new website as we get it up and come up with all our headshots from today.

Another thing that we revisited. Who here has memorized from our current website, StackSources mission statement? Show of hands. Anybody? That's because there is none. There's no mission statement on our website. I was hoping we could roast somebody on that one. You guys are all integrity. I like that. I've been on dozens of podcasts at this point. Colleen mentioned the podcast agent. It's actually a pretty cool move. You can get a podcast agent that you'll pay like $100 or $200 for a booking. I've been on 30 real estate investment podcasts and then some tech innovation podcasts. And everybody asks me, what is StackSource doing? What is it building? What's the future we're building? What's our origin story? And so I've given the answer to what is StackSource's mission. Upwards of 100 times for sure, right? Telling each of you during an interview process on all these podcasts. But I realized that I say it differently every time. The words I say are different. The same themes are there. The same vision that we had for bringing the commercial financing process online has been there all along. But we didn't have a written out mission statement. So a few members of leadership, marketing, and sales and we talked about what is our statement, right? What is something we can put up on the website? What is something we can turn to? What is something if we wanted to, we could memorize it and say, “this is our mission”. What are we all driving towards? And so what we came up with is this: "To provide transparent, efficient access to the capital markets for commercial real estate investors to source their ideal capital stack”. We've played with the wording a lot of times. If somebody has some killer suggestion for us, we'll consider it. But we've gone through a lot of iterations to get to this one. We could start that with a StackSource mission statement, right? So StackSource's mission is to provide transparent, efficient access to the capital markets for commercial real estate investors to source their ideal capital stack. That's our mission. That's what we're headed towards. We're going to go towards that with our core values intact. And we're not going to tolerate doing it in a different way. The strategies we're talking about today are how we're going to do that for now, we'll have new strategies. The core values should be who we are and this should always be what StackSource is doing. Call out if we're doing something that is not serving this mission. Call out too, if you or someone you see is not operating according to our core values. Our core values are not what we say. Our core values are what we do not tolerate someone going against. I believe that everybody in this room is in line with these core values. But accountability will help us to stay the course in a hard situation, in a gray area, in a tense moment, to remember what we're about, to remember, that we're about transparency, we're about innovation, that we're about owning the outcome. So let's remind each other, let's remember it. We'll have some new blog post stuff about them, some content marketing about it. But this is who we are. This is what we will always do. This is what we will always be driving towards. And it's our first ever mission statement written down. Any questions?

This is our last thing before a little coffee and donut break, but any questions? Is Jocko Willink coming? No Jocko's not coming. Jocko Willink is the author of "Extreme Ownership" and he's a pretty intense dude, but he is not our sales trainer tomorrow, maybe in a future year. There you go. Yeah, we can ask him well, this is a Navy Seal, so maybe we won't bring it up. Jesse, what's your question? For me personally, looking at the five core values, one of the things that I was looking for in companies that I tried to work with or products that I want to buy is quality. So the United States, the modern world, is moving more towards speed and getting you what you want, right? Everybody loves Amazon because today, boom, it's there. But it's not always great quality. You end up buying it three more times because it breaks. The whole idea of owning the outcome really adds, in my mind, quality to that list. Of course, you own the outcome. You're saying, this is the quality of my work. Regardless of if you had people help you, Tim says you reached out to other people you just controlled it all yourself. You're owning not only the speed, but you're owning the quality of what you're providing. And I'm sure everybody here wants to provide the best quality to your customers. Yeah. And for the recording, if you didn't hear Jesse and you're joining StackSource later, he was talking about, hey, listen, speed is not always the best way to get the best outcome because you could be missing that quality component. That's exactly what we're trying to do with that shift, to own the outcome. There will be situations that require speed. You can think of if you're Capital Advisor, a deal scenario, somebody's in a 1031 crunch and they need to close on a contract, or they need to close on a contract before it expires, it's going to require speed. And there will be other situations where “let's slow down and get this thing right”. So it's about the outcome. And owning the outcome means succeeding at what your task was and succeeding at what your project was for sure. No show of hands. If you're completely not on board with this set of core values right now, it would be a good opportunity to have a hard conversation with me, like sometime after the summit here. We don't plan on bending on these things. It would be a conversation you're going to want to look yourself in the mirror and truthfully, like, say, is this the right place for me? If I don't want to have transparency,  if I'm not going to operate in a way that is going to be seen as high integrity, if I just want to put in a few hours of work and its best efforts, it's not owning the outcomes. I want it to become a harder place for someone that thinks that way to be here. Because if we don't, there's going to be someone that comes along that would love this stuff and is going to add so much value to what we're trying to do and to our mission. And they're not going to tolerate somebody that is bending on this stuff. And I'm going to make decisions to bring in and support these people and lift up people and support people that are believing in this stuff.

So let's hold each other accountable. I hope that everyone can come away from this week believing in that. You all took the survey. Thank you. Actually, extremely high survey response rate. Thank you everybody for your feedback. Feedback is a gift. Feedback as a gift was actually a core value at the last company I worked at before founding StackSource. So is speed actually moving fast and breaking things? I worked at Facebook, it's now called Meta. And moving fast and breaking things was a core value that they famously sunset because they were doing it and it became a problem. And in some senses, there's a time to outgrow that going from prototype to a business people rely on. But feedback as a gift is another one that I'm going to keep with me. Even if it's not a named core value, I will always consider feedback to be a gift. So thank you for answering the surveys. Thank you for posting in platform feedback. Thank you for the direct Slack messages and calls. Feedback is a gift.

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